Plan before you plant fall bulbs, enjoy carefree flowers in spring
The beauty of spring bulbs really isn’t just in the flowers that bloom next springtime. It’s also taking full advantage of a garden you plant now and basically forget about it until one fine day.
It’s really as simple as digging a hole, adding fertilizer, dropping your chosen bulbs into the ground in the next few week, watering well, and, well, that’s it.
Your bulbs will begin their growth underground, establishing roots in moist soil, then going dormant through the cold winter warmer temperatures and frequent rains prompt them to sprout next spring. It almost seems miraculous, but of course bulbs have been the eye candy of early springtime for hundreds of years.
Crocus, daffodils, and hyacinth are favorites for early spring color, and you can expect some varieties to rebloom year after year (just don’t cut off the fading foliage ; that’s how they feed). Over the years, these naturalizing bulbs will multiply and spread. In fact, you’ve probably seen jonquils and daffodils in age-old meadows from generations back, still blooming year after year.
Another popular bulb is the tulip; just don’t expect them rebloom as reliably. Tulips and other bulbs can be a favorite of squirrels, deer, rabbits and other wildlife. Although the least likely to be scrounged, you may still find daffodil bulbs laying on the ground not long after planting. If so, work them back into the soil. Many will still bloom.
Buy the Best Bulbs you can afford
Look for bulbs as you would produce. Those that are weighty, firm, and mold-free. Avoid the bargain box you can’t even see. Deal with reputable names, locally if you can; online if you must. Store your purchases in a cool, dry place until ready for planting. And by all means, label carefully.
Order early, and smarter
No one said you have to wait until fall to buy spring bulbs? Why do you think the bulb catalogs start arriving as early as August, so you have plenty of time to browse and develop a fever for springtime blooms, even as your summer garden is fading.
Ordering early means you get better selection, even if you’re just reserving your selection for later shipment. You also can order smarter, because you may still have some notions on which selections did well and which didn’t.
Best of all, there are some great deals online in summer, as bulb catalogs want people to pre-order. Photos of your spring bulb displays aren’t just for showing off, it’s good to review what choices actually performed in your garden and which might need replacing. It’s also a good time for reading and reviewing, like you’re doing now, to see what advancements there may be that are more hardy in the Ozarks.
Wise gardeners even keep a notebook handy, because by now what seemed so fresh and memorable may be getting a fall haze.
The real fun of it: Experiment
Perhaps the most fun you can have is to try new cultivars. Just pick out a few bulbs you’re crazy about and buy at least 10-15, enough for a fair test. You might even want to know on a few doors in your neighborhood to get an accurate notion of what your neighbors planted. If you love them next spring, buy more next fall. You might be surprised to find how inexpensive your bulbs are, especially after you dig up a few dozen. Our experience is that a few dozen of some bulbs may soon become several hundred. Then it’s time to trade, and perhaps even to experiment with layering and forcing a few bulbs indoors.
A recommendation: Try native Ozarks Liatris
A real Ozarks native cultivar is Liatris, which actually grow from corms in nature that sprout in spring, but don’t bloom until late summer. A corm, or bulbotuber is a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem used by some plants to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as drought and heat. Close enough since the aforementioned croci and gladioli are also corms.
Liatris corms are usually planted in early spring but can also be planted in fall. Planting them 12-15 inches apart will allow room for growth and spreading. The best part is they bloom the same year that they are planted, or perhaps the summer afterward if you plant in fall. Bloom times are about 70 to 90 days.
When a friend name her daughter Liatris, we knew we would try them. Beautiful plant and beautiful daughter, though the latter remains a sprouting teen-ager. Her best is yet to come. Our liatris came from Schaffitzel’s Greenhouse in Springfield in late spring, and bloomed nicely the same summer. We’re looking forward to future growth, because these are great cutting flowers.
Liatris can also be grown from seed, though plants grown from seeds don’t bloom until their second year. Sowing them in the fall or early winter can often yield good results. Liatris seeds can be sown directly in the garden, or started indoors. Germination usually occurs within 20-45 days if the seeds are exposed to cold, moist conditions for about four to six weeks prior to planting.